File a Complaint

The BCSC is the provincial agency responsible for protecting investors and regulating capital markets. We supervise other regulatory organizations that set and enforce rules of conduct for many market participants, including those that regulate investment dealers and mutual fund dealers . Because of our system of regulation and law, these regulators are responsible for investigating investor complaints against their members.

Review the sections below to assess how you should proceed with your complaint.

What the BCSC Can and Cannot Do

The BCSC has a wide range of authority, including enforcement powers to disrupt, stop, and prevent unscrupulous market behaviour. Here is a summary of what the BCSC can and cannot do.

The BCSC can
  • act against market misconduct, including removing from the market those who do not comply with the law or who cheat investors
  • enforce compliance with securities legislation
  • in some cases, order respondents to pay back money to investors
  • answer general questions about investment products and services
  • tell you if a firm or representative is registered in British Columbia
  • tell you if the BCSC, or another securities regulator, has disciplined an individual or company
  • suggest options for pursuing your complaint and tell you which organization may be of the most help
The BCSC cannot
  • force someone to give your money back
  • undo a transaction
  • give advice on an investment
  • give legal advice
  • negotiate a settlement on your behalf
  • comment on an investigation

Complaints About Advisors

Complaints about investment firms or representatives can range from problems with service quality or errors in account handling, to concerns that you have received poor investment advice or that securities rules may have been broken. The nature of your complaint and the type of firm involved will determine your best course of action.

Approach Your Investment Firm

Before pursuing action with a regulator, raise your concerns with the person who handles your account. They can often quickly clear up what may have been a misunderstanding.

If you are unable to resolve matters with your advisor, ask the firm for information about its formal complaint process. In most cases, the next step is to write a letter to the firm’s branch manager or compliance officer. The firm should acknowledge receipt of your letter, investigate your complaint, and then inform you of the outcome.

If you are still dissatisfied with the outcome, you have several options for pursuing your complaint outside the firm, depending on the outcome you are looking for, the type of firm you are dealing with, and the nature of your complaint.

  • If you are looking for financial compensation, you can go to court, agree to binding arbitration, or contact the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investment (OBSI).
  • If you are concerned that the advisor or firm you deal with may have broken the rules, take your complaint to the appropriate regulator to ask for a regulatory review. You can request a regulatory review and pursue financial compensation options at the same time.
Document the Complaint Process

Once you begin the complaint process, it is important to document and record every step you take, including telephone conversations, faxes, and emails – note all details such as the date, time, and name of the person you spoke with and what you discussed. Communicate in writing whenever possible.

Find the Right Regulator

Two self-regulatory organizations (SROs) supervise the business conduct of investment dealers and mutual fund dealers. SROs are industry associations that set and enforce rules and standards for their members and are answerable to the BCSC. Each SRO has a formal process for reviewing complaints about its member firms and their sales representatives.

Complaints about advisors and dealers that are not members of an SRO should be made to the BCSC in the following cases:

  • complaints about portfolio managers and investment counsel, scholarship plan dealers, exchange contracts dealers, and other limited dealers
  • complaints about an individual or company trading or advising without being registered
  • complaints that have not been satisfactorily resolved by other organizations.

Complaints About Companies

If you have a complaint about an investment you made in a company or concerns about the conduct of a company, its directors or officers, you have a number of options.

Complaints About the Conduct of a Public Company

Regulators can conduct reviews and take enforcement action against companies and their directors and officers when they break the rules, but generally cannot order compensation for financial losses. If you are concerned about the conduct of a public company , here is how to proceed:

  • Determine which regulator has jurisdiction
    • If a public company is reporting in a number of provinces, the primary regulator is usually the province where the company has its head office or principal place of business. You can search a public company’s name on SEDAR and its profile will generally list its principal regulator.
  • Determine which regulator handles the type of complaint you have
    • When a public company in BC wants to raise money by selling its securities, it must follow the requirements of the Securities Act. The BCSC is responsible for enforcing the Act and is charged with investigating and acting against market misconduct by BC companies selling securities, or companies from outside BC selling securities to BC investors.
    • The BCSC and Canada’s other provincial securities commissions have delegated regulatory authority to certain industry organizations and stock exchanges. These self-regulatory organizations establish and enforce rules for the protection of investors and promote fair, equitable, and ethical practices among market participants. The SROs are also responsible for industry compliance with securities law.
Complaints About an Investment in a Private Company

Although private companies may not have to file a prospectus with the BCSC to sell their securities, they must comply with the Securities Act , which limits how and to whom they can sell their securities.

Our private placements section explains what private companies must do to legally raise money in private transactions and the risks of investing in private companies. If you believe that a private company has broken any of these rules in selling you its securities, contact the BCSC.

Under the Securities Act, a purchaser can take action if there was a misrepresentation in a company’s disclosure documents, or the purchaser did not receive a required disclosure document. Although the BCSC enforces the Securities Act, we cannot order financial compensation for investor losses. To pursue financial compensation, you must go through the courts. Review the Seek Financial Compensation section below for more information on this topic.


Seek Financial Compensation

You may want to discuss your complaint with a lawyer to get advice on the options available to you.

Binding arbitration

Binding arbitration is an alternative to going to court. It is available if your dispute is with a firm that is a member of IIROC or a representative of that firm, and the amount of the dispute does not exceed $100,000. Arbitration may be less expensive and can be faster than taking civil action. You can present your case with or without a lawyer. When you choose this option, you agree to treat the independent arbitrator’s decision as final and you give up the right to go to court or use any other resolution service.

Civil action

BC Small Claims Court – This is a simple and relatively inexpensive way to sue for compensation and damages up to a maximum of $25,000. Most people represent themselves in small claims court.

BC Supreme Court – If you are seeking more than $25,000, you will have to take your case to the BC Supreme Court, where a lawyer should represent you.

Dispute resolution involving bank-owned firms

If your investment dealer is a subsidiary of a Canadian bank, that bank will have its own ombudsman to handle complaints and should be contacted before the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI). Find your bank ombudsman in Industry Canada's directory, or contact your bank.

Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI)

OBSI is a free, independent service for resolving banking services and investment disputes. If you are not satisfied with the firm's decision on your complaint, you can bring your case to OBSI for an impartial and informal review. OBSI can recommend compensation up to $350,000. You have up to 180 days after receiving the firm's response to contact OBSI.

If you or the firm decides not to accept OBSI's recommendation and the dispute involves an IIROC member, you can still use IIROC’s arbitration program or take legal action. You can make a regulatory complaint at the same time you make a complaint to OBSI.


BCSC Complaint Form

The BCSC Complaint Form collects the information we need from you to determine what action we may be able to take.

Click image to open the form

The form is also available in the following formats:

Contact BCSC Inquiries if you have questions, or have a problem completing the form.